New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Saturday (7/19) Northern CA surf was head high, hacked up, cold and dreary. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist high and clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was thigh high and clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was thigh high on the sets and textured. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high on the sets and textured early. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist high and clean early. The North Shore of Oahu was flat. The South Shore was thigh to waist high and clean. The East Shore was chest high or better.
North/Central California was getting locally generated northwest windswell. Southern California was getting minimal wrap around energy from the northwest windswell but more important, the start of southern hemi swell was being to be noticeable. Hawaii's North Shore was flat for the summer. The South Shore was getting the very tail end of a short period pulse of energy from off New Zealand. Trades have returned and the East Shore was getting some short period east-northeast windswell.
For Central California short to modest period locally generated north windswell is in the forecast for the foreseeable future, maybe dropping a little early in the coming week but then rebuilding. Southern hemi swell is starting to build expected to provide something rideable too a exposed south facing breaks for the late weekend-early week time period. Southern CA to see a fraction of this windswell at the most exposed breaks, but of more importance is the building presence of southern hemi swell through Monday (7/21). In the Islands background southern hemi swell is all but gone but another smaller pulse is on the way for Mon/Tues (7/22) with a better one behind that starting Wed. Down south a decent small gale formed off Chile Fri-Sun (7/13) pushing well to the north and is the source for the coming southern hemi pulse on the US West Coast. Two more systems formed southeast of New Zealand right behind it quick succession Sun/Mon (7/14) and Tues/Wed (7/16) offering limited odds for background swell in Hawaii through the coming week and into CA starting Wed (7/23) and Fri (7/25). The models have backed down on projections of something forming well south of California this weekend, with the only thing of interest a storm forecast for the Tasman Sea Mon/Tues(7/22) offering some filtered hope for Hawaii with Fiji stealing the bulk of the swell. Looks like it's a take what you can get situation, with no solid swell producing storms on the charts. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
The North Pacific jetstream is in hibernation for the summer. No features of interest were indicated with the bulk of whatever limited energy was present forecast tracking just barely south of the Aleutians and into the Northern Gulf of Alaska. No big ridges forecast though so heat should remain at bay in CA.
At the surface today moderate high pressure at 1028 mbs was parked 1000 nmiles north of Hawaii trying to ridge into California and succeeding enough to generate a broad fetch of 20-25 kt winds off Northern CA on down to the south end of the state and producing short period nondescript windswell. This high was also serving to goose up trades over the Hawaiian Islands in the 15-20 kt range producing similar easterly windswell there. Over the next 72 hours the high is to back off from the CA coast late Sunday through Tuesday (7/22) with windswell dropping, then ridge eastward again with the same windswell result Wednesday and beyond. Trades in the Islands to fade Sunday and Monday then return early Tuesday through Thursday providing more limited early windswell. No other swell sources indicated from the North Pacific.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (7/19) northerly winds at 15-20 kts were over outer waters and pushing nearshore in the north on down through the central coast making a mess of things. Sunday the gradient over CApe Mendocino is to retreat and winds with it, providing cleaner conditions and an eddy flow from the west to southwest. But then by Monday the North Pacific high starts to rebuild and with it comes the north winds and chop pushing close to the coast late in the day. Tuesday the winds to retreat from the coast just barely from Pt Reyes southward while winds build over Cape Mendocino increasing the size of the windswell and even more so on Wednesday. Thursday the gradient to sink south and fade some moving right over the Bay Area late and holding there Friday into Saturday. Windswell to still be present but period to be short and lot's of local bump in the water down to Pt Conception.
Tropical Depression Elida was about 1000 nmiles east of Hilo Hawaii tracking west at 12 kts with 30 kt sustained winds and 14 ft seas. A slow decay in strength is forecast for the next 3 days before Elida completely dissipates. No swell production potential indicated.
Hurricane Fausto was located 480 nmiles south of Cabo San Lucas with sustained winds at near 80 kts tracking west-northwest at 7 kts. It was just starting to move into the Southern CA swell window 1100 nmiles to the south and up the 159 degree great circle path. Winds are forecast to hold into Sunday (7/20) at 75 kts then start decay while holding on a generally west-northwest track. This mornings QuikSCAT satellite pass indicated winds equally concentrated around the core, and with it relatively slow forward speed these winds will have an opportunity to get decent traction son the oceans surface offering decent if not limited odds for some sort of swell to push northward. Seas are estimated at 17 ft. Assuming this is true some form of limited 12 sec period swell could arrive in Southern CA in 60 hrs or Monday AM (7/21).
On Saturday (7/19) a split jetstream pattern remained in-control for the most part, with a weak trough in the southern branch pushing north impacting the northern branch near 130W (Southeast Pacific). Winds were only 100 kts feeding into the trough, limiting it's ability to support gale development at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to hold while a strong ridge builds in the west pushing east a broad upper flow of 120 kt winds to the north near 140W on Monday (7/21), feeding into the trough and crashing into the northern branch of the jet. Unfortunately the trough is to wash out quickly on Tuesday leaving a weak split flow in it's wake and no support for surface level gale development. Beyond 72 hrs the split flow pattern is to hold with no serious troughs forecast and no support for surface level low pressure development of consequence.
At the oceans surface high pressure at 1032 mbs was anchored east of New Zealand while weak disorganized low pressure was in the east. Swell from the Two Part Gale and 2 gales that followed was pushing north (see below). Over the next 72 hours high New Zealand high is to push east and the low in the Southeast Pacific is to try and organize on Monday (7/21) but quickly get torn apart from lack of upper level support. The only systems of interest is a 980 mbs storm forecast in the Tasman Sea on Monday (7/22) generating a short lived fetch of 55 kt winds aimed north targeting Fiji well with 40 ft seas from 39S 165E (1300 nmiles out), then crashing into New Zealand late in the evening. Large swell for Fiji possible with weak filtered remnants eventually pushing into Hawaii.
No other swell sources indicated.
Small Two-Part Gale
On Wednesday PM (7/9) a 960 mb low was organizing southwest of New Zealand streaking east with 40-45 kt west winds at 59S 171E but aimed southeast at the Ross Ice Shelf. On Thursday AM (7/10), it was marginally better organized with confirmed winds at 50 kts at 59S 174W aimed due east getting some traction on the oceans surface. The Wavewatch3 model indicated seas at 30 ft at 60S 172E but the Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the fetch and reported sea at 35 ft. But these seas were on the western edge of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to California (210 deg NCal/209 SCal) and aimed 70 degrees east of the 194 degree path to Hawaii. By evening the fetch was gone and seas were fading rapidly. This was previously projected to be a monster storm, but has since be downgraded heavily.
With only 12 hours of effective fetch and one good seas reading but shadowed by Tahiti for California and well off any route to the Islands, it's pretty doubtful too much will result. The fetch was 6700 nmiles from California and 5100 nmiles from Hawaii. Swell arrival, if it were to occur, in Hawaii would be 8 day later or Fri AM (7/17) with period 17 sec. In California it would be roughly Sunday AM 7/20 with period 18 secs, transitioning to 17 secs in the late afternoon and getting somewhat rideable. Swell to peak Monday AM (7/21) with period at 16 secs. Swell Direction 208-210 degrees. At this time consider this more a academic exercise that anything that will result in a payoff.
This system continued east then northeast and reorganized while slowing it's forward speed. A solid fetch of 50 kt winds were confirmed by the QuikSCAT satellite on Friday AM (7/11) at 55S 139W aimed almost due north or right up the 190-193 degree path to California. That fetch held well in to the evening with confirmed winds of 50 kts confirmed at 49S 132W aimed 20 degrees east of the 185-187 degree path to California. 30 ft seas were modeled at 51S 135W.
On Saturday AM (7/12) fetch was fading but still decent, with 40-45+ kt winds at 45S 123W aimed almost due north or right up the 180-182 degree path to California. 30 ft seas were modeled at 44S 128W. No Jason-1 satellite passes occurred near this fetch yet so no confirmation was provided. This fetch continued if not regenerated some in the evening with 45-50 kt winds aimed almost due north at 42S 117W aimed right up the 178-180 degree path to CA. 30 ft seas modeled at 40S 120W. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly overhead and confirmed sea at 31.1 ft with a peak reading of 36 ft at 38S 114W.
On Sunday AM (7/13) this system was falling apart with 40 kt winds aimed northeast at 39N 110W generating up to 32 ft seas at 36S 112W maybe providing sideband energy pushing up in the the California swell window up the 172-175 degree great circle paths. In the evening this system was almost gone with a tiny area of 40 kt winds at 36S 11W and 30 ft seas mostly from previous fetch decaying at 34S 108W, pretty much outside the California swell window but bound for Central America on down into South America.
Even on Monday AM (7/14) residual seas of 30 ft were modeled at 31S 105W and fading fast.
This was not a strong system by any means, but it held together fairly well and pushed northeast with solid fetch aimed well up the great circle paths to California (first half of the gale) and Central America. But almost the entire second half of the gale was east of any direct route to California, thereby limiting direct energy from pushing northward, though side band swell is expected. Assuming the Wavewatch models are accurate, swell is already pushing north towards California expected to arrive Saturday (7/19) with period at 18 secs moving to 16-17 secs on Sunday (7/20) and well in the rideable range. Southern CA to be about 9 hours ahead of whatever hits in Northern CA.
Southern CA: Expected swell arrival Saturday (7/19) with period 19 secs at sunrise and rideable with swell 2 ft @ 18 secs (4 ft faces) mid AM. Swell building to near 3 ft @ 17+ secs and sunset (5 ft faces with sets at better breaks to 7 ft). Swell to peak in the early morning hours and still be solid at sunrise Sunday (7/20) at 3.1 ft @ 16-17 secs (5 ft faces with sets to 7 ft), but slowly settling down through the day, dropping to 15 secs late. Swell of 3 ft @ 14-15 secs to hold through Monday (7/21) producing 4-5 ft faces. Swell Direction 180-180 degrees
Northern CA: Expected swell arrival Saturday (7/19) with period 19 secs at sunrise and barely noticeable but coming up steadily through the day, reaching 2.3 ft @ 18 secs (4+ ft faces) at sunset. Swell to start peaking just after sunrise Sunday (7/20) at 3 ft @ 17 secs and sunset (5 ft faces with sets at better breaks to 7 ft) holding solid through the day at 3.1 ft @ 16-17 secs (5 ft faces with set to 7 ft). Swell dropping on Monday (7/21) starting at 3 ft @ 15 secs producing 4-5 ft faces. Swell Direction 175-185 degrees
Southwest Pacific Gale
A new gale that formed Saturday evening (7/12) with 40-45 kt west winds confirmed at 56S 170E was holding south of New Zealand with pressure 968 mbs generating a broader area of 40-45 kt west winds at 55S 180W.
30 ft seas were modeled Sunday AM (7/13) at 56S 170E. This fetch tracked east-southeast with pressure dropping to 960 mbs Sunday evening and 45 kt winds confirmed at 58S 168W. Seas built to 32 ft at 58S 178W.
By Monday AM the core of the low was tracking southeast over the Ross Ice Shelf with lingering 35-40 kts west winds confirmed remaining over exposed waters near 60S 155W and fading fast. Seas were modeled at 35 ft at 58S 165W. The fetch is to be gone by evening with residual 32 ft seas modeled at 60S 152W and fading out.
Relative to Hawaii this systems fetch was at least 70 degrees east of any great circle path to the Islands limiting whatever swell they could receive. Fortunately this fetch was east of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to California though still blowing 45-50 degrees east of the 198-203 degree great circle paths, likely limiting swell generation potential. Still some form of background swell is expected for all locations roughly 8.5 days out for Hawaii (Mon PM 7/21) and 10 days out for CA (Wed 7/23).
Expect swell for Hawaii arriving in the early morning hours of Monday (7/21) with swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs dropping to 16 sec later in the day (2.5-3.0 ft). Residual swell of 1.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.0-2.5 ft faces) to be left on Tuesday then fading out. Swell Direction: 193 degrees
Expect swell for California arriving mid-to-late Wednesday (7/23) at 1.6 ft @ 18 secs ( 2.5-3.0 ft faces) and very inconsistent. Swell to peak early Thursday with swell 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft faces) with residuals of 1.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (2 ft faces) on Friday. Swell Direction 198-203 degrees
Central Pacific Gale
A 948 mbs gale organized southeast of New Zealand on Tuesday AM (7/15) and just off the Ross Ice Shelf with a fetch of 45 kt southwest winds confirmed at 60S 165W by nightfall with seas to 30 ft at 60S 172W.
This gale tracked east and by Wednesday AM (7/16) it's was decaying with 40 kt southwest winds at 61S 165W and 35 ft seas modeled at 59S 161W, but the core of the low is to be over the Ross Ice Shelf and fading. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the extreme southern edge of this area and confirmed seas at 33.5 ft (15 reading average) with a peak to 39.7 ft (one reading). Considering this was pretty well south of the main seas area, this was encouraging, suggesting the model was at least on track if not a little low. This system was gone by nightfall with fading seas modeled at 32 ft at 58S 155W.
This system was almost due south of Hawaii and again the fetch was 70 degree east of the 180-185 degree great circle paths there, limiting the amount of energy heading north. Maybe limited background sideband swell with luck, 7-7 days out, or Thursday AM (7/24) with period 17-18 secs. Odds are a bit better for California, with the core of the fetch just barely east of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow, though still partially obstructed by minor islands east of that area. Swell to arrive about 10 days out or Saturday (7/26).
Expect swell arrival in Hawaii late on Wed (7/23) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3 ft faces). Swell holding into Thursday at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Residual energy at 2 ft @ 14-15 secs expected on Friday (7/25). Swell Direction: 180-185 degrees
Expect swell arrival in California starting late Friday (7/25) with period 18 secs and size near 1 ft. Swell to build into Saturday peaking at near 1.6-2.0 ft @ 16 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 200 degrees
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast other than from high pressure as indicated above.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Saturday (7/19) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the inactive phase. The SOI index which had been hovering near 0 (or neutral) moved into the positive range on 7/16 and is currently holding at 19.02. The 30 day average was -0.01 and the 90 day average was 1.04, essentially dead neutral.
Beyond 72 hrs the high pressure system that was east of New Zealand is to track into the Central and Southeast Pacific putting a squash on any developing low pressure system in the area driving them mostly over the Ross Ice Shelf. No seas of interest forecast.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table